CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Paul Millsap thinks the Atlanta Hawks finally have things headed in the right direction.
After a brutal stretch in which they could do little right and lost 14 of 15 games, the Hawks have suddenly battled back to win four straight, including a 97-83 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night.
The win pulled the Hawks to within 1 ½ games of the Bobcats for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and snapped Charlotte's eight-game home winning streak.
"It was probably the best second half we have played all year," Millsap said. "Our intensity was there."
That's exactly what coach Mike Budenholzer has stressed to his players in practice in recent weeks.
Apparently his guys were listening.
The Hawks limited the Bobcats to 31 points in the second half on 29 percent shooting from the field.
"I think we have been talking about improving our defense going down the stretch here," Budenholzer said. "The activity and the effort and the commitment on the defensive end in the second half allowed us to beat a very, very good team tonight. That's something that we want to continue to build on and continue to improve as we go down the stretch here."
Millsap scored 17 of his team's 19 points during one stretch at the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third. Charlotte took an eight-point lead into halftime, but was outscored 30-16 in the pivotal third quarter.
"I was just being aggressive and attacking the basket," Millsap said. "I made a few layups and that opened the 3-point shot. We made a few threes."
The Hawks were 13 of 34 from 3-point range and showed good ball movement throughout the game, repeatedly getting open looks at the basket.
Said Kyle Korver: "We had a tough February, but we kept fighting."
The Bobcats had won four straight games coming in, but stumbled in an effort to get back to .500 for the first time since Nov. 23.
Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 20 points and seven assists.
Al Jefferson, who was selected the Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday, had 16 points and 12 rebounds for his 30th double-double of the season, but was just 6 of 15 from the field. It was only the second time in the last 10 games he's been held to fewer than 20 points.
The Hawks did a good job of forcing Jefferson to set up further from the basket than he likes and also doubled down when needed.